4 Simple Fishing Knots Every Angler Should Know


Growing up as a kid I remember not really having enough formal instruction or guidance when it came to fishing. There was no one in my immediate family who was interested or really had the time to prioritize toward learning how to fish properly. This ended up hindering my growth and success as an angler due to a lack of both skills and understanding of what I was doing when going to the local pond, river or lake.

I didn’t understand how lures were supposed to move in the water and what I needed to do to make the lures move in a realistic way that could deceive the fish into taking the bait. I also had zero clues where the hook needed to be in the water to catch a variety of fish. I just assumed that all fish ate from the top of the water and that the weight was only meant to make the line easier to cast in the wind and help keep the bobber in one spot. Obviously this is inaccurate, but in the mind of a young boy it made perfect sense.

One of the most difficult skills that I had to learn was figuring out what fishing knots were best for what situation. Prior to the age of 16 I really only knew the simple overhand knot and just repeated that knot a time or two and it seemed to get me by when dealing with smaller, weaker fish. It wasn’t until I started having bigger, stronger fighting fish on my line that I began to see the reasons why tying overhand knots wasn’t all that great.

I recall having an 8lb channel catfish on my line (15 lb mono) and having the fish break off my hook while fighting couple of times before finally getting it on the bank. I could tell that my knot was the reason why I lost the fight the first couple times as the end of my line was curly and kinked up. This is an indicator that your hook was tied on incorrectly or there was a failure in the knot itself.

I later decided to not let this happen again and decided that I would push myself to learn more fishing knots and learn how to fish belter overall by focusing on individual species at a time and learning how to make simple fishing rigs like the Carolina rig. I hope to give some people the basic foundation to some of the most common fishing knots while also doing it in a way that is fun to keep along with and makes sense. This is by no means a how to, but rather a recommendation of 4 basic fishing knots to start with that seemed to really help increase my skill in the recreation.

1. The Arbor Knot

Now first things first, the arbor knot is arguably the first or one of the first knots that every fisherman should learn out of convenience. I say this as I use it when setting up every single one of my fishing poles. I will admit that while it is useful and very convenient it can be a little tricky or confusing the first few times you try to tie the knot, but it is super easy once you learn it. This knot is a type of slip knot. It is meant to synch down on an object and will only get tighter the harder you pull.

The arbor knot is fairly easy to assemble as it is really only two over hand knots working together while being pulled together. This is the only knot I personally use when re-spooling fresh line to one of my fishing reels. I have never had an issue with my line coming undone when I use this knot and the knot is tied correctly. It can be used for other circumstances like tying rope to a log, or something similar, but I tend to only use it for fishing reels. 

2. The Palomar Knot

Now that you are aware of a knot that can help you get fishing line on the spool of your fishing pole, I will introduce you to one of the most popular and well known fishing knots out there. That knot being the Palomar knot. What originally attracted me to the Palomar knot was the need for a knot that solved my previous issues I was observing when relying on simple overhand knots to keep my fishing hooks from snapping off of my line.

Now I am not saying that by changing your knot of choice to the Palomar knot that you will never lose a fish, but I do argue and do believe that for its simplicity and ease of tying it tends to hold its own against the abuse of fish and allow me to have higher success rates when catching fish from more a variety of environments. It is very rare for me (now) to lose a fish due to a knot issue. It is typically due to old line, abrasion, or too weak of line for the fish that was biting.

Most people are familiar with this knot and for good reason as it is one of the only knots you should really need to know. It still shocks me how many people have never heard of this knot despite its name being dropped in almost every YouTube video where someone is fishing with a GoPro. I am not trying to overhype the power of this knot, but rather emphasize the impact it has had on me as an angler. If you have been just tying random series of overhand knots on your line I am certain you will notice a higher success rate when reeling fish in or getting a hard bite before being able to adjust your drag.

If you can tie an arbor knot then you can easily tie a Palomar knot. All it takes is for you to fold a few inches of line in half and push the new end of the line through the eye of the hook, make an overhand knot while pushing the hook through the hoop that you pushed out when making the previous overhand knot. Then all you have to do is synch the knot and cut off the tag end.

3. The Figure 8 Knot

If you are into bass fishing and rely on more rotation or movement from your lure in the water it may be beneficial to look beyond the simple Palomar knot and look towards the figure 8 knot. The figure 8 knot creates a loop for your hook to sit in allowing for greater hook rotation and mobility in the water. It is also great for catfish rigs as it allows for the bait to potentially float in the water above the sinker and freely move in the water. This makes it easier for fish to see the bait and a bit easier to bite for certain fish species.

I use this rig a decent amount when putting on lures for bass fishing and other lures that area meant to resemble the prey of various predatory fish species.  Some people like to have the flexibility of being able to switch out bait/lures quickly when fishing in various habitat structures and also use a clip to attach their lures to this knot. Not every fisherman does this as it can impact the presentation of the lure in the water, but I know that everyone has their opinion on the subject. Typically, serious bass/crappie/walleye fisherman has an arsenal of poles all loaded up with different sizes, shapes, and colors.   

I tend to hold the philosophy that less is more and that it isn’t that hard to take the extra minute or two to tie a new knot to change bait when fishing for the previously mentioned species. Tying a figure 8 knot is simple. Much like the beginning of the Palomar knot you fold the last few inches of your line in half. You then add whatever hook or rig like you would with any knot putting the folded end through the eyelet. Using the newly crimped line you tie the folded region of the string in an overhand knot and pulling the mainline until it gets tough.

4. The Slip Knot

Last but not least, I decided to highlight one of the most basic and universal knots out there, the slip knot. No, I am not talking about the early 2000’s Nu metal band, though I do admire their musical work. The slip knot is similar to the arbor knot, but easier in my opinion. You may be wondering when you would use such a knot when fishing, but I would argue that you aren’t thinking hard enough. The slip knot has various applications, but really shines when needing to fix objects to something that is stagnant. I use this knot when setting limb lines/set lines for catfish in the summer. I also like to use it when throwing crawdad/bait traps for fishing.

If you often fish from a boat or camp this knot is also useful when needing to tie off to a post while leaving the boat or when tying off guy lines to trees for added wind protection/stability. The knot is a simple knot; I can’t really explain it well over text but will do my best. You start similar to many of the knots previously mentioned by folding the end of a rope. Then, with the remaining tag end you create a loop and create a series of overhand knots around the mainline and through the tag end loop (about 3 times) then you pull the tag end tight away from the main loop.  


I remember being a novice angler as a kid and having no clue how to tie knots, while a lot of knots are far from complex, sometimes the brain does not have the patience to sit there and figure out how a knot works or why it can’t tie a knot correctly. Often there is a lack of dexterity that plays a role, but I would argue that this is a smaller factor.

Here I listed some of my most used knots when fishing. I am sure there are many others out there that could serve as an equal or greater replacement, but I am content with this small arsenal of knowledge which I possess. I am by no means an Eagle Scout or a master angler who gives guided fishing trips on the weekends, but strive to help out where I feel that I can. If you would like greater visual guidance when tying the first three knots, consider checking out my “How to Tie a Catfish Leader (Carolina Rig)” video. It is not the greatest of quality but gives some help. The best way to learn knots is to practice. So get out there and practice while it is warm and not below freezing, your hands will thank you.

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